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Risen 2: Dark Waters Preview

Arrr Matey, if you love pirates, or maybe just feel like some tasty swearing as a side dish to your gaming, you must check out Risen 2: Dark Waters. Coming from the diminutive studio of Piranha Bytes, this game feels like a big publisher title. The game is clever in its design, solid in its engineering, and delightful in its articulation of pirate lore. This swashbuckling adventure utilizes all the standard elements of RPGs and expounds upon them in spades, allowing players to feel immersed in the life of a pirate while they play what has increasingly become a rarity in the gaming world: an RPG that is actually about role playing!

The release of Skyrim set a new bar for the RPG world, compelling developers to step up their game. Risen 2 meets that bar by taking the best from other titles in the genre and adding its own unique content. It incorporates the successful exploratory strategies of Bethesda games like Fallout and Skyrim. It follows Bioware’s lead in providing multiple dialogue options that have a meaningful impact on quest and storyline progression. And it does everything Fable wanted to but didn’t– rather than holding your hand and telling you where to go and what to do, the game gives you the freedom to explore and makes you pay attention to your own quests and needs and statistics.

One of the most impressive things is how immersive the player’s pirate experience is. This is where the uniqueness of Risen 2 shines through. This isn’t a standard RPG dressed in pirate clothing; Risen 2 is fully steeped in pirate tradition and personality. NPCs make fun of you if you don’t drink enough. They also swear as much as they say anything at all.  The boundaries of acceptable behavior are understandably blurred because—well, you’re a bloody pirate. And even the side mini-games such as drinking contests have a mode unlike any other game I’ve played.

So, what’s it like to be a pirate? Risen 2 delivers the answer to this question through the experiences of arrr-guing with other scurvy dogs, insulting members of the inquisition, learning how to intimidate your way out of a brawl, and finally resorting to swashbuckling and dirty pirate tricks when it’s time to fight. You can train monkeys to steal for you, take on salty sea monsters, and specialize in voodoo magic which allows you, among other things, to build a doll of your enemies and stick pins in them. Voodoo Magic is one of the skill trees; to add to the experience all of the skills are based on character traits and skills of pirates, not just the standard RPG skills. Experience is gained through the glory of your deeds, which really means how bad ass you are since there isn’t much “right” or “wrong” for pirates. The game is well balanced in allowing you to pursue the methods of piracy which most appeal to you, and pirate nuances even extend to the items in the game; they’re all either pirate themed or connected to pirate legend and lore.

If you love pirates then this is definitely a game worth checking out; I personally haven’t been so happy with any pirate game since Curse of Monkey Island 3. The preview I played is only about a quarter of the game, and I’m already hooked. But even for those not enamored with scurvy dogs or the open sea, I would still recommend Risen 2. It’s a unique and well-crafted addition to the RPG genre and offers a great contrast to the Nordic dragonborns and wasteland settlers of late.

About Sage Morris-Greene

As Tech-Gaming's own Phoenix Wright, Sage Morris-Greene is currently balancing the completion of her law degree, an obsession of all things cyberpunk, and a budding career as a stage and film actress.


  1. Primal Ice Cream

    Sounds like these enough bad language to get rated “ARRRGH!”

  2. I see no parrots or wenches, what kind of pirate game is this?

    (Correct answer- one I’m interested in) Risen was pretty kick ass, even if random enemies could kill you instantly.

  3. So is this connected to the first Risen in any way or just by name?

    Sounds cool. Did you play the PC or console version? My concern is the performance on PS3 because these niche RPGs get a quick and dirty console port sometimes.

    • No, it’s not connected to the first Risen. And I played the PC version–check out what I said below to Swordmage, this one should be ported better.

  4. Refreshing NukeCola

    I like t’ see a game where Piracy be encouraged.

  5. I expect plenty of salty pirate talk in this thread.

    I like Risen. A little buggy, kind of ugly, but totally had personality and charm. For this one is is more funny or serious in tone?

  6. Reading this it makes me wonder why no one has done the open-world pirate game before. It seems like a no brainer.

    Hopefully, the final game will turn out well. Some of those screens look like they’ve spend a bit too much time at sea.

  7. What did you think about the combat in it?

    I’ve heard this is crazy hard. True? Are there difficulty levels?

    • there are difficulty levels. I have also heard it was hard…I didn’t find it too hard. It was sort of like the combat in the Witcher, just in that you have to get a feel for how the movements work, and then its not so bad. It was a little frustrating to need to learn new fighting moves from trainers rather than just “learning” them by leveling up–but really, thats more realistic to real life than just suddenly “knowing” how to do something you’ve never learned. In general I like the combat fine– as long as you’re a little clever, you can find a way to beat the baddies; whether it’s relying on your party members to provide distractions, or learning how to throw coconuts while you swashbuckle.

      • If it’s like the Witcher at all, I’m there day one. Man, I loved that game (the sequel, not quite as much)

        • I do like the sequel, but have had trouble running it on my comp cuz my system is just about out of date, so I haven’t been it yet. I’m worried about ME3 for the same reason

  8. How do the characters look in the game? Risen was really rough looking at times.

    Also, are they using their own engine or licensing one?

    • Honestly, I think the characters look pretty good. There are a couple of recycled faces in the preview, but for the most part everyone has a unique style. This is accomplished through the variety of clothing worn and by the animated gestures the NPCs make while you talk to them. It’s not the graphic level of Skyrim, but its pretty dang good and its certainly good enough that it wasnt distracting or anything. And I don’t know which engine they’re using.

  9. A release date and platforms it will be on would be good to note.

    • It will be coming out on PC, 360, and PS3, and Wizard Box are working in connection with Piranha Bytes to make sure that the console ports will look good and play well (at least thats what they say). Release date is supposed to be April 24th in the US for all systems, April 27th in Europe.

  10. I see nothing but light colored water in the screenshots 😉

    Sound like a good idea. We’ll see if the execution matches.

  11. Good preview, Samurage. I hope you review the full game.

  12. After seeing nothing but Johnny Depp pirates in games the last few years, I’m looking forward to this.

  13. Is there a read Monkey-Bird in this game?

  14. The Man, The Myth

    Looking forward to Risen 2. Hopefully Gamestop will be kind enough to take my preorder money. 😉

  15. I didn’t feel that all of my decisions really mattered. My feeling is that your decisions mattered mainly insofar as a character might briefly appear in the game and promise to help you but you may not ever encounter that character again in the game and a positive number would be tallied, in your favor, to your military strength. So, basically, I feel like I made decisions not to see further development of a character who was willing to fight and, possibly die, along side me but rather, to see a sum magically increase by a few hundred points.

  16. very nice , visit me too